Wyoming Catholic College in Lander has joined a small group of Christian colleges that are refusing federal aid to avoid governmental shackles which might inhibit freedom of religion.
Citing federal rules on birth control and same-sex marriage, the college decided this winter to join a handful of other religious colleges refusing the federal student-aid programs that help about two-thirds of students. WCC’s decision means no federal loans, work-study money or grants to pay for their annual $28,000 tuition, which includes housing in gender-segregated dorms and three meals in the school’s lone dining hall, the New York Times reports.
To the college’s leaders, rejecting government-backed aid was an expensive effort to defend against what they called growing government threats to religious freedoms. If you do not take the money, leaders argue, the government cannot tell you what to do.
“It allows us to practice our Catholic faith without qualifying it,” said Kevin Roberts, president of a college that teaches horsemanship as well as Thomas Aquinas in a town of 7,500, he told the NYT. It’s clear that this administration does not care about Catholic teaching.”
“We really didn’t want the federal government meddling in our lives here,” said David S. Kellogg, a Wyoming Catholic board member told the NYT. “The federal government hands you money and then threatens to withdraw that money if you don’t do what they want.”
A few other private colleges refuse federal dollars, such as Christendom and Patrick Henry colleges, both in Virginia; Hillsdale College in Michigan; Grove City College in Pennsylvania; and New St. Andrews College in Idaho, and more than 24 religious schools and universities are among the businesses and religious groups have filed lawsuits challenging the birth-control coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Despite the lack of federal monies, these colleges continue to thrive and draw students.
The colleges’ fear of federal interference is not unwarranted. Founded in 1884, Hillsdale College in Michigan had a bad experience with federal-aid shackles that is serving as a cautionary tale for other colleges and universities. Often known nowadays for its free online Constitution-related course, it was reportedly the first American college officially to prohibit discrimination on race, religion or sex”which put it at odds with federal affirmative action programs in the 1980s.
Hillsdale began refusing federal aid in 1984 and Michigan state aid in 2007 after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1984 Grove City College v. Bell that required colleges and universities to comply with past and future federal requirements if their students received federal aid.
“We really didn’t want the federal government meddling in our lives here.”
—David S. Kellogg, Wyoming Catholic board member
Rich Meggenberg told the DcGazette that the college has successfully provided financial aid to its 1,400 student body through private donations and endowments to pay for its 2014-15 $32,866 tuition and room and board. Its students’ average SAT score is 1,940 out of a possible 2,400.
Hillsdale’s “Resolution Against Federal Interference,” stated that both Congress and the Obama administration appeared, “even more than the worst of their predecessors, bent on extending federal control over American higher education and other areas of American life.”
In its mission statement, the “college considers itself a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law.”
Christendom College, a Catholic institution in the picturesque Shenendowa Valley in Virginia, has never taken federal money since its founding in 1977.
Tom McFadden, vice president of enrollment and marketing, told the DCGazette that “We wanted to be free and clear of federal entanglements, which was a huge fear of our founder, Warren Carroll.”
The college provides aid to its 500 students to pay for its $33,760 tuition and room and board from private sources. He said the college has not gotten gifts from any known millionaires but from a lot of little people donating small amounts because they believe in what we do.
McFadden said that in the last two classes, students have come primarily from one-income families with an average of 6.1 children, 60 percent of which were homeschooled. The average SAT score was 1,843 out of a possible 2,400.
He said that some religious colleges that take federal aid have had to secularize to meet federal requirements.